Richard Branson's letter to staff
The full text of Sir Richard Branson's letter,
sent to the homes of 4,800 Virgin Atlantic cabin
31st December 2007
I am no longer overseeing Virgin Atlantic on a
day to day basis, as its founder I keep a watchful,
and proud, eye over its progress. From one second-hand
747 twenty three years ago, it has turned into
an airline that everyone working there can be
truly proud of. Everyone who comes into contact
with Virgin Atlantic leaves with a smile.
set up Virgin Atlantic I know only too well how
challenging managing an airline can be. History
is littered with carriers that have gone bust
- Laker Airways, Dan Air, Air Europe, British
Caledonian, and just last week, Maxjet, which
had been in business less than 18 months. In our
relatively short history, we’ve seen the
demise of every airline we competed against back
in 1984 (except BA). TWA, Pan Am, People’s
Express, Air Florida to name but a few. Even the
mighty Continental Airlines, Delta, Northwest
and United all went bust only to be bailed out
by the US Government with massive loans. One of
the principal reasons for these airlines’
demise was internal strife.
Virgin Atlantic has survived against all these
giants thanks largely to the attitude and hard
work of its staff - by everyone working well together,
by ensuring that we are the best airline flying
and by having a management team who (by and large)
have managed and are managing it well and who
are willing to take tough - but necessary - decisions
only other airline to have survived across the
Atlantic is British Airways. Unlike Virgin it
didn’t grow from one plane with no support.
It used to be the national airline and was privatised
some 20 years ago with a very large silver spoon
in its mouth. It was given the bulk of slots at
Heathrow and Gatwick, much of the infrastructure
and even Concorde, which had cost the taxpayer
hundreds of millions of pounds to build, it was
given for one pound.
also has the luxury of a short-haul network to
feed its long-haul. As a result it has made -
and can make - significantly larger profits than
Atlantic has never had any handouts and therefore
to survive we have to keep our costs under control.
afraid that those in the union who compare Virgin
Atlantic with British Airways are being very unrealistic.
It’s like comparing chalk with cheese.
people who joined Virgin realised that. They knew
that their basic salary was usually not the same
as BA’s. But they joined for the benefits
that came with working for a smaller, more friendly
company. (I know - and I am sure you know - quite
a few crew who left Virgin for BA for better pay
only to return to Virgin for those other benefits).
have discussed at length with the senior team
whether there is anything more that they can safely
do to help and I believe them when they say that
the final offer on the table is the best they
can or should do in terms of addressing cabin
crew salary packages.
comes a time in any negotiation when a good management
team has to draw a line in the sand and I agree
with them that time has come. To go further would
result in unacceptable risks and would set a dangerous
precedent to the company as a whole. It would
be irresponsible of our management and they, rightly,
are not going to take that risk.
some of you more pay than Virgin Atlantic can
afford may be critical to your lifestyle and if
that is the case you should consider working elsewhere.
For the vast majority of you, the pay rise you
were offered was the best in the industry this
year, which is why the union strongly recommended
it. I’d urge you not to put at risk our
ability to solve this dispute by messing up our
customers’ travel plans.
all want to resolve this situation and give the
best pay increase that the business can afford.
The best way to achieve this is by keeping all
of our planes flying and delivering what we do
best - making sure that all of our passengers
leave with a smile.
and have an excellent New Year.